Fantasy baseball: Three hitters to grab off the waiver wire

Pitching remains a focal point of the fantasy baseball pickups front, accounting for 19 of the 25 most-added players in ESPN leagues during the past week.

Unsurprisingly, many of my most-advised targets remain just that: pitchers. Brady Singer, one of last week's recommendations, remains an advisable pickup with a two-start Week 19 ahead of him. Additionally, a trio of pitchers discussed in greater detail this past Wednesday (Dane Dunning, Michael Lorenzen and Gavin Williams) form a group that should be universally added entering the week.

In an effort to avoid redundancy, today's column focuses on the hitters you should be adding:

Ke'Bryan Hayes, 3B, Pittsburgh Pirates: How many times must we ask if Hayes is beginning to figure things out before we give up on the possibility of him actually figuring things out? It's a fair criticism, especially after he has posted mere .250/.308/.373 hitting rates while making five combined trips to the IL totaling 111 days of absence in the three seasons since his stunning September 2020 opening big league month.

Nevertheless, Hayes is still just 26 years old, giving himself some time to advance his development and, since his most recent return from a back injury, he has shown the kind of power that has been missing in his game up until that point. It's an incredibly small sample size, yes, but in 10 games this month he has slugged .595, averaged a 94.7 mph exit velocity and delivered a Statcast 63% hard-hit rate.

To put those numbers into perspective, Hayes had never come close to any of those rates in any previous month (minimum 10 games) since the beginning of 2021. He does appear to have made a change to his swing path this season, with his 12.8 degree launch angle easily being his highest in any of his four seasons to date, so his hot streak should catch our attention.

Best yet for Hayes, his Pirates face a fantasy-friendly schedule for hitters the remainder of the way, and his team appears to have settled on him as its leadoff man against left-handed starters and its No. 3 hitter against right-handers.

Trevor Story, SS, Boston Red Sox: He had an internal bracing procedure of the UCL in his right elbow back in January and his first week of game action following his recovery from that surgery went every bit as well as, and in some ways better than, expected.

Story played the entirety of three of the Red Sox's six games at shortstop, played two additional as the designated hitter, delivered four batted balls (all hits) clocked at 100-plus mph by Statcast, and stole three bases (on four attempts). That last stat is particularly encouraging, as it signals that the team won't put restrictions on him when on the basepaths, which is a good thing considering Story has stolen at least 13 bases in each of the previous five seasons and derives a good amount of his fantasy value from his legs.

He should play the majority of Boston's games at shortstop the rest of the way, considering the team's playoff aspirations and lack of decent defensive alternatives at the position, and could reasonably deliver 6-8 homers and 10-12 steals the rest of the way. That's meaningful, especially in rotisserie leagues.

TJ Friedl, OF, Cincinnati Reds: Elly De La Cruz's slump (.195, 41% K-rate since the All-Star break) has proven to be Friedl's gain, as the now 28-year-old outfielder (Happy Birthday!) moved into the leadoff spot for each of the three games of the weekend series at the Pirates, with De La Cruz moving back down to third. It's a spot from which Friedl batted earlier this year -- before De La Cruz's breakthrough -- and Friedl's keen batting eye and penchant for contact makes him a good fit for the role.

There isn't a lot of upside in Friedl's bat, as his .162 ISO and 26.5% hard-hit rate leave plenty to be desired, but among players with at least as many as his 389 plate appearances, his 18% miss rate on swings ranks in the 85th percentile and his 25% chase rate ranks in the 67th percentile.

He also has a pro-career best 22 stolen bases, signaling his prospective contribution in that department. And finally, he's plenty serviceable against left-handed pitchers, with .302/.362/.465 career rates against them, which is why the Reds have been willing to start him in seven of their last 11 games against a lefty (albeit generally in the bottom third of the lineup).